My research team has been exploring four areas:
* East Scotia Ridge, Southern Ocean
* Mid-Cayman Spreading Centre, Caribbean Sea
* Mid-Atlantic Ridge north of the Azores
* the SW Indian Ridge
where our work addresses three main topics:
(1) Global biogeography of deep-sea chemosynthetic environments
(e.g. Copley et al. 2007a; Rogers et al., 2012; Connelly et al., 2012; Roterman et al., 2013; Chen et al., 2015)
Why do we find particular types of animals at some sites, but not at sites elsewhere? Why are some types of animals found at more sites around the world than other types? These are the big questions, and answering them should give us a better understanding of patterns of life throughout the deep ocean. Answering them also involves describing new species from the areas that we are exploring, and analysing their genetic code to determine how they are related to species elsewhere.
Here are some of the new species that my team has been involved in describing from recent expeditions:
* Rimicaris hybisae Nye, Copley & Plouviez 2012 (world's deepest known vent shrimp)
* Iheyaspira bathycodon Nye, Linse, Copley & Plouviez 2013 (deep-sea snail)
* Lebbeus virentova Nye, Copley, Plouviez & Van Dover 2013 ("green goolie" shrimp)
* Osedax rogersi & Osedax crouchi Amon et al. 2014 (bone-eating "zombie" worms)
* Chrysomallon squamiferum Chen, Linse, Copley & Rogers 2015 ("scaly-foot" snail)
* Paulasterias tyleri Mah et al. 2015 (seven-armed seastar)
* Gigantopelta chessoia & Gigantopelta aegis Chen et al. 2015 ("giant" peltospirid snails)
* Pachycara caribbaeum Anderson, Somerville & Copley 2016 (deep-sea eelpout fish)
(2) Spatial & temporal dynamics of faunal assemblages in chemosynthetic environments
(e.g. Copley et al., 2007b; Marsh et al., 2012; Marsh et al., 2013; Amon et al., 2013)
Within a vent field, cold seep, or whale-fall, our goal is to understand what lives where and why. For example, why are particular species found in the immediate vicinity of "black smoker" vents, and other species found only in periphery of vent fields?
Unfortunately we can't stroll around the ocean floor as easily as ecologists do on seashores to investigate their patterns of life, so we are developing new techniques to study the microdistribution of animals in these environments, using high-definition cameras and the precision-control capabilities of the latest generation of remotely-operated vehicles.
(3) Life-history biology of species occupying insular & ephemeral marine habitats
(e.g. Copley et al., 2003; Copley & Young, 2006; Copley et al., 2007b; Nye et al., 2013; Nye & Copley, 2014; Marsh et al., 2015; Amon et al., 2015)
How do animals "hop" from vent to vent, or seep to seep, or whale skeleton to whale skeleton, in the deep ocean? The species we find in these island-like habitats on the ocean floor seem to have a variety of life cycles, types of larval development, and reproductive patterns. But are some features of their life-history biology "preadaptations" for success in these environments? And what are the consequences of differences in life-history biology for dispersal, gene flow, and ultimately biogeography?
One of the current paradoxes in marine biology is that differences in larval type don't seem to influence the differentiation of populations very much over surprisingly large scales. But is that just because we don't yet have a good picture of what's going on down there? Our work in this area involves characterising the life-cycles of animals from deep-sea vents, seeps, whale-falls and wood-falls, in conjunction with studies of the genetics of their populations by colleagues around the world.
Principal Investigator, Hydrothermal activity and deep-ocean biology of the Mid-Cayman Rise (NERC £462k Standard Grant), 2009-2014
Co-Investigator, ChEsSo: Chemosynthetic Ecosystems of the Southern Ocean (NERC £3.2 million Consortium Grant), 2008-2014
Principal Investigator, Biogeography and ecology of the first known deep-sea vent site on the ultraslow-spreading SW Indian Ridge (NERC £35k Small Grant), 2011-2012
Lead investigator, Deep-sea vents between the Azores and Iceland: missing piece in a global puzzle of marine life (£43k National Geographic Expeditions Fund Grant), 2011-2012
Deep-sea research expeditions
Participant, RV Yokosuka Voyage YK13-05 (Japan Agency for Marine-Earth Science and Technology), Mid-Cayman Spreading Centre, Caribbean Sea, June 2013, with the Shinkai6500 submersible
Chief Scientist, RRS James Cook Voyage 82, Mid-Cayman Spreading Centre, Caribbean Sea, February 2013, with the Isis remotely operated vehicle (ROV)
Chief Scientist, RRS James Cook Voyage 67, SW Indian Ridge, November 2011, with the Kiel6000 ROV
Participant, RV Celtic Explorer Voyage CE11009 (Irish Marine Institute), northern Mid-Atlantic Ridge, July-August 2011, with the Holland-1 ROV
Participant, RRS James Cook Voyage 55, Southern Ocean, January-February 2011
Participant, RRS James Cook Voyage 44, Mid-Cayman Spreading Centre, Caribbean Sea, March-April 2010, with the Autosub6000 autonomous underwater vehicle (AUV)
Participant, RRS James Cook Voyage 42, East Scotia Ridge, Southern Ocean, January-February 2010, with the Isis ROV
Participant, RRS James Clark Ross Voyage 224, East Scotia Ridge, Southern Ocean, January-February 2009
Marine Biology and Ecology